On the surface, Okja is about the unbreakable bond of a person and animal. However, watchers will also uncover the movie’s layers and deeper meanings. Director Joon-ho Bong leaves the audience with the lingering feeling of sadness from the underlying themes he portrays in the movie. As one watches this beautiful satire, one will not only witness the magnificence of a relationship between man and animal, but be left contemplating about the movie’s true intentions.
The plot starts with Lucy Mirando (Tilda Swinton) as she plans to reinvent the Mirando corporation starting with a kickoff project- the superpig, this new species of pig found on one Chilean farm. The project is eco-friendly, natural, non-GMO, and will feed the country. To boost her campaign, Mirando sends 26 superpiglets around the world to local farmers as a competition to find “the best superpig.” Okja is one of these superpigs and has a close bond with Mija (Seo-Hyun Ahn), a south Korean girl whose grandfather is a participant in the contest. When Okja is taken by the Mirando corporation, Mija goes after her, headstrong and angry.
What makes this movie unique is how Joon-ho Bong incorporates ideas like capitalism and/or different ideologies through the personalities of the characters. Not only do the actors like Tilda Swinton and Paul Dano portray these concepts, but they match the characters perfectly. Swinton captures Lucy Mirando’s compulsion in her childlike way and Dano gives his character life with a calm personality but strong resolve. Likewise, Seo-Hyun Ahn, who plays Mija, gifts the audience with her strong, passionate agony but also Mija’s humorous, blunt personality though the screen. Even Okja, the superpig, has realistic qualities because of the meticulous digital work put into the movie. The characters are so well conveyed that anyone else playing their roles seems unimaginable.
The style of cinematography plays a big part in what Joon-ho Bong wanted to deliver. In the beginning, it starts in the stunning mountainsides of South Korea, where Mija and Okja live. Mija is just a normal country girl who was never aware of the world beyond the mountainsides until now. When she ends up in Seoul, she stands out with her red jacket in the bustling crowds of businessmen and women. To portray its satirical essence, the movie implements classic music instead of tense, fast-paced music during action scenes to illuminate their ridiculousness and exaggeration. In addition, cinematographer Darius Khondji showcases the majority of the movie in still, straightforward clips, which presents the plot in a relaxing way that goes hand in hand with the music, but contradicts the actual storyline, and which is what makes the film ironic.
While watching Okja, be ready to feel betrayed. The characters believed to be in the right may be in the wrong, and vice versa. The movie’s purpose depends on one’s opinions. Don’t be surprised to suddenly start crying and laughing simultaneously because of the sad scenes or mocking characters. If that occurs, that means the movie did its job and viewers understood Joon-ho Bong’s way of poking fun at our problematic society.